New Jersey is testing a new communications system to help all first responders hear one another.
FirstNet was authorized by Congress in 2012 to allow all public safety workers nationwide to share real-time data and audio and video feeds.
FirstNet president T.J. Kennedy said it will make emergency responders more effective.
“Everyone would have access to the same spectrum, the same technology, on a network that would give them priority and pre-emption, something they just don’t have today,” he said. “So that during these really unique emergencies, they can also have reliability, resiliency.”
Fred Scalera with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said the network is being tested in Atlantic City, Camden, and along the Route 21 corridor between Paterson and Newark.
Scalera, a former fire chief, said the new system will benefit the public.
“When I’m responding on mutual aid to another town and I can’t talk to them, I’m really not helping that resident out that much because I might not be able to do things,” he said. “When I can communicate with them and know exactly where to go, where to come in, and I can get there, maybe you’re waiting for my ladder truck from another town, now we’re talking directly. I’m saving minutes to get there to save somebody’s life.”
A $50 million federal grant will allow the police, fire, and emergency medical workers in the pilot program to get the equipment for free.
Plans call for FirstNet to be expanded throughout the state in 2017.